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UWI project using sargassum seaweed to power vehicles

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August 18, 2021

The University of the West Indies (UWI) is executing a project that will see vehicles running on a fuel made of sargassum seaweed and wastewater from rum factories, with the aim of having a quarter of Barbados’ cars eventually using it.

The disclosure came on Tuesday from the Principal of The UWI’s Cave Hill Campus, Professor Clive Landis, who said the university will be doing more to foster a climate of entrepreneurship and innovation among its students, faculty and staff.

Speaking at the signing of a two-year Memorandum of Understanding (MOU) between The UWI and CIBC FirstCaribbean International Bank, the principal said the university will be embarking on two projects through the MOU.

“The first is what we call the Rum and Sargassum Project, led by one of our lecturers in the Faculty of Science and Technology, Dr Regina Henry, who specializes in renewable energy. With this project, we are hoping to have one quarter of the vehicles in Barbados powered by a natural fuel made up of sargassum seaweed and wastewater produced by our rum factories. The sargassum seaweed will act as an accelerant, and we will also be using manure from black belly sheep as bio-methane in this fuel, which will be similar to compressed natural gas,” he explained.

“We have received a grant from the Blue Chip Foundation in Trinidad and Tobago, who will be converting two vehicles to run on this fuel within the next few weeks.”

In the second project, staff at all levels of the university will be encouraged to come up with new business ideas to generate revenue for their departments and the campus overall.

“With the Innovation Challenge, full-time staff, either as individuals or groups, are asked to come up with a business plan which they will first submit in written form. After that, those who come up with the best plans will have to give a face-to-face presentation on it before a panel of judges drawn from Cave Hill as well as three entrepreneurs. Funds for the winners will be used to start businesses on campus and the contest will be held every two years,” Professor Landis said.

The MOU is the latest in a series of such agreements between UWI and the financial institution which date back to 2003.

Professor Landis said that over the years, the bank has contributed some US$1.6 million to support initiatives across the UWI community, including 250 scholarships and research grants to the tune of US$500,000, as well as US$300,000 towards the Student Entrepreneurial Empowerment Development (SEED) programme which assists students in getting their own businesses off the ground.

Meanwhile, Business Development Officer at the Cave Hill Campus, Sonia Johnson, said: “With this new MOU, we will be crossing the $2 million threshold in terms of the funding we have received from the bank over the years. One of the first projects we did was to invite researchers in to document the merger which started FirstCaribbean International Bank, and this was developed into a series of books by Ivey Publishing out of Canada. Those books are still available and have been translated into several languages, including Chinese.”

She was “super excited” about the innovation project among the staff, to which some $120 000 will be allocated over the two-year period.

Colette Delaney, Chief Executive Officer of CIBC FirstCaribbean and Chairman of the bank’s Comtrust Foundation, under which the MOU falls, said: “Entrepreneurship and innovation will be the key drivers of the economy post-COVID, and we see what we do as a tangible demonstration of our commitment to this region and its development.” (DH)


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